After reading Gerrie’s comment yesterday I hurried to the TV to watch Oprah’s show about American’s bravest families (gotta love varying time zones!). I have to admit that I was dismayed by the first half. I do agree with her message — no, Tom Brokaw’s message — that 1% of Americans are sacrificing a lot in the name of our country and the other 99% are pretty much unaffected.
The first two families profiled are undeniably brave, and deserve our respect, but I feel like dead and wounded soldiers are the easy ones to showcase. They make the best TV. Their suffering is graphic and obvious. I felt like Oprah took the simple way out. I was admittedly a bit pissed — and I do hate myself for begrudging these families who are dealing with so much loss. It’s part of the tremendous guilt I feel for being as lucky as I am.
But then came the second half of the show and I could breath a little. Michelle Obama “gets it!” Though thousands have died, and thousands more return injured, the vast majority of our fighting forces make it home from war without obvious scars. Only to deploy again. This is going to sound harsh, and maybe that’s the unfortunate result of being a military wife for 16 years, or maybe I’m just insensitive (again, guilt), but the families of the dead and seriously wounded get to stop and deal with that reality.
The vast majority of families who still serve actively don’t get to stop. They must continue to live with the constant uncertainty of the next deployment and the next move. They need to find that emergency contact to put on the kids’ school paperwork though they’re new in town; they run households alone that were intended to be run by two; they are hundreds or thousands of miles away from friends and family; they’re forced by necessity to depend on people with whom the only thing they have in common is that they are all in the same situation; they’re lonely but can’t date like “real” singles; they have to learn their way around unfamiliar places; and just as soon as they get it worked out they have to move and start over again; and they worry about their soldiers.
I believe the families we need to open our eyes to are the ones who look for all intents and purposes, just like us. We assume they are fine, but underneath, there is a lot more going on, and will continue to go on as long as their service member is in the armed services. It’s these families we need to try to recognize. Kudos to Mrs. Obama for looking past the dramatic and finding courage in the everyday.
As for what I expect the civilians of our country to do, I don’t know. An all volunteer fighting force has many advantages, but perhaps we need to consider requiring all citizens to serve in one way or another — be it military, Peace Corps, or teaching our children. How’s that for a Sputnik moment? Every American serves their country for a minimum of two years. Then perhaps our leaders would do more than bicker at their partisan differences.
And war is freakin’ expensive. It’s not just bullets and fancy airplanes. It’s the fuel trucked thousand of miles to power the war machine. It’s the extra trucks using more fuel that make up the convoy to make sure the fuel gets to it’s destination. It’s the food brought in and the barracks built. It’s the cost of sending families overseas with their service members and all the accompanying schools, stores, hospitals, and their staffs to make these families comfortable. It’s the contractors hired at much more cost to fill in the jobs for which there are not enough military members to do. It’s all the support staff everywhere. It goes on and on. Civilian Americans could do their part by giving up a little of their hard earned cash to pay towards those who are giving up their hard earned lives. How about a war tax. Sure, we could cut our national deficit by cutting defense spending (and yes, there is fat to be cut), but as long as we are supporting war (which we are as long as we elect a Congress who chooses to support war) then why ask our service members to do more with less while we sit at home unaffected? How about a war tax to offset the enormous cost? Yes, that would mean a rise in taxes, but I’m sure Americans would love the feeling of repealing them once we’re out of Iraq and Afghanistan and could consider cutting the defense budget back to Clinton era-ish levels.
I suppose that’s what we could do. In the mean time, I do appreciate everyone who thanks my husband for his service. And I appreciate Michelle Obama’s commitment to military families and support her efforts.